Tag Archives: live

Ghostfaceless

Fellated?

At the tail-end of last week, I was due to interview one of The Wu Tang Clan’s most eloquent, passionate and natural vocalists, Ghostface Killah. He, along with his accompanying Theodore Unit troupe, was to appear at the Scala in Kings Cross. Because of the reported nature of the hip-hop interview, I expected some degree of being mucked about but, inexperienced noob as I am, I hadn’t planned on the epic scenes I took in. Ineptitude, deviance and violence are all major players here, and it truly is a wonder that anything gets completed by these people.

I made myself available from approximately 2pm on the day of the interview, having been told that I would be telephoned with a meeting place and time. It wasn’t until around 5pm that I was told to meet the gig promoter outside the venue at about 8pm. This, I could stomach. I had time to prepare myself, to expect the worst and read a bit of my book with a coffee. Fine. 8pm rolled around, and I met the promoter, along with one other journalist intending to interview (we’d been allocated paltry 15-minute slots) and his photographer pal. Lovely stuff. We’re told that his Lordship Ghostface is not yet inside the building, and that phone calls were being made to ascertain his whereabouts. We retire upstairs for a beer.

One of those phone calls comes, and we’re told that they’ve finally left the hotel and, because of the Scala’s apparently non-existent back door, I should be the one to stand in the stairwell to catch the entourage and snag interview information. Of course, they slip by, or go in another way, or something, but they arrive ten minutes before stage time and we get the pleasure of speaking to Ghost’s manager. A smooth-talking, quiet and polite Frenchman, he assures us that after the show will be the best time to complete an interview, and that we should head in and enjoy the show.

The other journalist decides that, British transport being what it is to the commuting population, he should get a train back the ‘burbs so that he doesn’t spend all night trying in vain to get an interview. The show itself begins triumphantly, and continues to be triumphant for a good 45 minutes. Dennis Coles stalks menacingly around the stage, tightly and efficiently brushing lyrics out as if they were grit between his teeth. The shrieks begin to go up for Wildflower, but there’s a tension of sorts brewing. Casually, almost too casually, members of Theodore Unit bring out bales of t-shirts and CDs to sell, and the music stops until at least some are bought. At £25 per t-shirt, this is a slow process, and one that generates some serious animosity amongst a skint, recession-transfixed crowd. Some boo, some leave, some shout that it’s unfair and that some music should be played. Ghost himself assures those shouting that if they continue to badmouth him and his associates, then he knows some people who can “fuck you up real good”. In a final attempt to appease the crowd, he performs an a capella Wildflower to a half empty venue.

 

The show continues soon after, with several Dirty Bitches joining the crew on stage. One girl in particular, as pointed out by an eagle-eyed accomplice of my photographer friend, has disappeared into the dressing room side of stage. When the door opens, she is fellating one of the support acts and stands up quickly, embarrassed. On stage, the lines between stage and floor become blurred as the venue continues to empty and the performers continue to perform. When things grind to a halt, it becomes obvious that there is a queue of women outside the dressing room waiting to see Ghost. Some take longer than others to emerge from the room again. I join the queue and attempt to attract the attention of the manager.

The door opens and slams repeatedly, we see all manner of people flying in and out of the doors, but the door with Ghost behind it remains locked. I speak to his manager, who assures me that the interview will proceed soon, and that maybe it would involve going back to the Hilton to complete it. Apparently, our man Dennis is “currently in an interview of his own”. It’s difficult to tell which girl was in there with him and for how long, but he looks tired on his emergence. People continue to mill about. I ask again about the interview. The manager assures me, again, that everything’s fine. Still more people disappear backstage for photos, autographs and blow-jobs. I ask the manager again, he reassures me again.

I ask for a final time, the venue close to total dereliction. Surely, if there was a time for an interview, this was it. The manager turns on me, all of a sudden. “Why the fuck are you still here? No fucking interview today! I already fucking told you! Why do you people not listen?!” I calmly (whilst shitting myself) explain that the interview had been sorted out a good few weeks in advance, and that I’d not be leaving without one. I was met with another similarly inane and confusing torrent, and then ejected by a very friendly security man. Leaving, I call to J-Love and Shawn Wigs on stage “thanks anyway, guys, good show”, and I’m given an embarrassingly silent response. Everyone’s a little confused. Things got ugly really quickly. Why had the gig itself descended so quickly into bizarre farce? Where’s the respect from artist to audience? Do they expect this with every act they see? Should I have offered fellatio? The answers are, very probably, pointless when considering such an unaffected performer and his bespoke industry.

More here.

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Dananananaykroyd – Hoxton Square Bar & Grill, 2/4/09

dananananaykroyd

With their debut album receiving hype aplenty and most reviews being mondo-glowing thus far (including PM’s, look), Dananananaykroyd seem to be in high spirits. That they’ve been on tour forever, are physically wasting away and ill is of no consequence to their love of the live show. It’s everyone together, squashing tightened pop through the narrowest holes possible, so that when it comes out it’s the biggest, most chaotic, triumphant, sweatiest, burliest, wiriest, most battering laugh-attack you might voluntarily subject yourself to.

It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the limits of expression in Dananananaykroyd’s music. No song is written with half-measures in mind, no notes are wasted, and each one is played with intent. This comes across all the more in a live setting, so when you can see dust and spit flying out of vocalists John Baillie Junior and Calum Gunn when they, hugging, shriek about a cake that caught fire or something, it seems to be the most important intimations you ever heard. “We did it!” they shout at the show’s climax. “We did it together!”

Beginning with the first four songs from their upcoming Hey Everyone! LP, the pace is remarkable. Watch This is a bickering, stuttering dialogue that, after delicate and nimble beginnings, explodes into joyful, arms-aloft expressions of supreme happiness. A slightly accelerated Some Dresses, usually the time in the set where the infamous ‘Wall Of Cuddles’ (RIP) would occur, is now home to a new disco section. Gunn dons a white bio-suit for reasons unknown, the lights direct toward the disco ball, a circle is created and a dancing competition takes place. Could you be having more fun, Dananananaykroyd? Could anyone?

Climaxing with Gunn repeatedly lobbing himself into the crowd in the first section of Song One Puzzle and a sweaty encore of Chrome Rainbow, London is won over. In fact, they were won over years ago when the band first began to play here. Only now, everyone is behind Hey Everyone!, and after tonight everyone will now be behind Dananananaykroyd, one of Britain’s best live bands.

See, hear. This review also appears at the lovely Artrocker website.

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Drever, McCusker, Woomble – London Union Chapel 13/2/09

Kris Drever, John McCusker & Roddy Woomble – London Union Chapel 13/2/09

 

An admirable focus on the whole prevails this evening. It would have been easy just to have played this Scottish trio’s recent Beyond The Ruin LP in full and have everyone go home happy, but they insist, worthily, on challenging their audience as much as they can. It would have been easier still to play on the fact that among their ranks is one of the best-loved indie figures of the last decade, Idlewild’s Roddy Woomble. Since the journey from thrashy to classy with his day-job band has been completed, it’s time for Woomble to try something different, and this project couldn’t be in better hands.

Kris Drever‘s devilish guitar and John McCusker‘s multi-instrumentalism provide scintillating bases for Woomble’s roughshod, weather-beaten poetry to fire off of, a constant and evolving battle of soothing and menace. Into The Blue is buoyant, considered and, at its climax, full of glorious vocal harmony that fills the dome of the church with ease. Similarly, My Secret Is My Silence from Woomble’s debut solo LP is full of repressed energy and joyous vocal flourishes. This is continually polarised, though, by instrumentals from Drever and McCusker, who tackle jigs and reels with impeccable virtuosity and real verve. Despite demonstrating that no single member of this trio (and their myriad accompanists) is more important than another, it’s the ensemble pieces that remain strongest. The gorgeous Hope To See defines the evening, sensitively told stories with the most satisfying of plucked and bowed backing – in short, a consummate treat and celebration of balanced musicality.

More info here. Pick up  a copy of The Fly this March and see this review accompanied by a lovely picture! Or view it in the online magazine.

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Asobi Seksu – London ICA 19/2/09

 This is actually the best photo we have of the night. Soz for cretiny.

With their beautiful third LP, Hush, released just days before this show, Asobi Seksu have every reason to be confident. They excel tonight, delicately pacing the set and balancing it with spectral, detailed renditions of new material and thunderous assertion of older tunes. Of course, now that their sound has shifted from the pop glee of 2006’s Citrus to the icy, insular and captivating dalliances of their latest work, the live show has to deal with stylistic veerings in the most entertaining way possible. New songs are performed with reverence rather than nervousness – the staccato vocal scales in In The Sky see vocalist Yuki Chikudate’s eyes go skyward, and the lolloping, dreamy Blind Little Rain is a perfect rest before more violent material returns.

Unsurprisingly and despite the magnificence of the new songs, it’s the material from Citrus that entices warmth from the jam-packed black box of the ICA. Strawberries provides a clattering familiarity early on, the accelerated outro of which is now greeted like an old friend, and Thursday (the one off Skins where bowl-cut learns to write again) is an emotional exhaustion, as serene as it is pleasingly wrought. During the second verse of the same song, guitarist James Hanna allows himself a rare smile as he picks out the counter-melody.

Continually, Asobi Seksu prove themselves more than capable of achieving the blistering power of their recorded output in concert. The drumming is pleasantly domineering at times, the bass almost-stupidly fuzzed and, at the front, Hanna’s intuitive guitar provides subtle but unmissable, vital focus. They prove themselves occasional showboats in the rapturously received encore – Chikudate stumbling into the drummers’ stool to prove that her thwacks can be as malevolent as anyone’s, and certainly more charmingly childlike. Disappearing in an unsurprisingly thick cloud of feedback and moodiness, they exit, their live reputation in London bolstered immeasurably.

This review also appears here, at The Fly. See what PM thought of Hush here and here, and visit the band’s MySpace for a listen.

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Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern – Rough Trade In-store 26/1/09

At the risk of turning PM into a Hayman-only devotion zone fixed with Hefner curtains and pictures of his dogs everywhere while we mark homework that doesn’t exist for children that may or may not have crushes on us in the glow of Teen Wolf coming from the TV, here are some pictures of last night’s Rough Trade East in-store gig.

Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern

Hayman proved that, though he is wont to forgetting even his most recent and cementing lyrics, he has a surprising kineticism on stage. His records hardly plod, but you’d be forgiven for thinking that, live, they might accrue some of the gentility heard on disc. What we’re met with is a smart-arsed and thoroughly noisy, scratchy and impassioned yell through some of his finest moments. Caravan Song from Table For One gains new buoyancy here, even though he confuses the lyrics again, and the overwhelming impression is one of righteous desires sung by a man who’s continually ashamed of every one of those desires he has. 

Darren Hayman

Tunes from his latest concept album Pram Town (reviewed) are not dwelled upon, but they are all efficiently and sensitively performed. Big Fish is a minor beauty, its small-time sentiments played with maximum scope for emotional indignity – something Hayman has perfected more than maybe any songwriter of the last few decades. The only gripe (and there shouldn’t really be any, it’s free…) is that the audience laugh when Hayman compares far-off locales to his own Walthamstow. Why laugh? It’s sung with such earnestness.

Visit Darren here. You probably already have, he’s just the best… You can also see what he’s been up to this past week in a wee chat we had.

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Martha & The Vandellas – London Bloomsbury Ballroom 20/12/08

Martha & The Vandellas

There’s always a danger with elder acts that any attempts to embrace modernity will come off as a desperate grasp for relevance, and any attempts to simply stick, steadfast, to what they know best will be interpreted as aligning oneself with dying breeds. Think of Tom Jones collaborating with Wyclef Jean. Think of Cliff Richard continuing to shamelessly canvassing for Christianity. But ah, Motown! That’s different! Surely nothing can derail the charm, the sass, the repressed sexual undertones?

Indeed, as far as showstoppers go, the undiluted stiffness of Martha & The Vandellas is a top draw, and Reeves and her sisters happily carry every single trait present at their inception. Rightly, no effort has been made to update, to forcibly include contemporary elements into their act. Elegant yet aggressive, the three of them perform the requisite hand gestures and flourishes with an air of authentic tribute, the handkerchiefs on their wrists worn like war-wives’ continuing hope of a man’s return. When the inevitable Jimmy Mack is introduced, Martha shambles (quite hilariously) into giving the impression she’s waited 40 years for the titular beau. Far from trivialising the sentiments of the song, the impassioned delivery by the group polarises the initial humour, making all the more potent as a dramatic piece.

As with disco, the best performers of Motown music effectively create a true drama out of what might be seen as excessive camp, unnecessary emotion or vulnerability. All the Vandellas songs have such a brazen, simple heart that when the three of them harmonise (with remarkable accuracy) with eyebrows arched in exertion the projected drama is palpable throughout the Ballroom. The Vandellas’ ability to sustain this dramatic interest was the initial key to their success, and they appear, with age, to have maximised its potential to remain an engaging live presence.

While there’s the occasional mis-step into that Tom Jones territory with slightly funkier new material, in the main tonight is a tremendously classy, well-judged affair. The turn-out is surprisingly small (there were a lot of names on the guest-list and very little advertising), but it all makes for a privileged feel among the guests. An introduction to another inevitable song, Dancing In The Street, sees Martha assert herself as a proud original, lambasting the likes of David Bowie and Mick Jagger (Youtube their version and cry dying) and even Cilla Black for inferior interpretations before launching into the most spirited performance of the evening. Whether it’s confusing, retro authenticity or just a good night out, what lasts longest in the memory is the verve, the expression and intimation of vulnerable but strong women, still dramatising after all these years.

See this review also HERE!

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James Yorkston/Malcolm Middleton – London St Giles In The Fields Church 11/12/08

Malcolm Middleton

Gigs in churches are just ace. No one talks, no one wanders around and gets in the way, everyone’s seated, not drunk and the artists are more likely to play at their best ‘cos of all the upturned faces at their feet. Malcolm Middleton seems very nervous about the whole affair, though, even though it’s a support slot. It’s not a nervousness in performance, particularly, more a nervousness that God will strike him down for saying “shite”, “pish”, and “we’re all gonna die” like a quiet shaman. Nothing like that happens, thankfully, and we’re treated to some spirited woe and a beautiful version of Devil & The Angel, leaving the audience several times warmer in this nippy old crypt than when he arrived.

James Yorkston

James Yorkston shares with Middleton a similar wariness about language and content, but unlike Middleton a real, performance nervousness that sees him bash the mic stand and forget his words in the first song. “Does anyone know how to play Steady As She Goes?” he later asks, bashfully. Ah well. From then on, though, it’s admirable festive stuff, with several highlights from the recent When The Haar Rolls In LP getting a welcome leg-stretch. Particularly endearing is the sweet and luxurious B’s Jig (in which the accordion and clarinet blend timbres like the separate elements of a Fruit Corner), and recent single Tortoise Regrets Hare, which features japesy contributions from Pictish Trail and Rozi Plain.

Throughout, though, it’s clear to see that Yorkston’s ease as a performer is what we’re all enthralled by, and the way he interacts with his hermetically tight band as well as the audience is a lesson in sympathetic control. As he gently crescendos all the way to the climax of the obligatory Shipwreckers, it’s hard not to be swept away by the conflict of grandiose religiosity trading blows with the defiantly homespun in this most glorious of surroundings.

More info and some ruddy music can be found here and here. And, get this, you can see the same review HERE! Why would you want to do that? TO PROVE THAT SOMETIMES PEOPLE DO READ WHAT WE WRITE!

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